Foamed Plastic (Styrofoam)

  • Michael Stachowitsch


What a wonderful material. It keeps your hands from being scalded by your coffee-to-go and your brain intact inside your helmet. And it floats so well that it is often the main ingredient in objects that folks throw into the water on purpose (fishing buoys, life savers). Whether it be packing material, fishing net buoys, or takeout food packaging, this is pretty much the best floating marine debris there is. Styrofoam is a “top 10” item collected in international beach cleanups. It eventually breaks down into an avalanche of white beadlets, making it a tailor-made microplastic generator. It can leach pollutants out into the water and releases toxic fumes when burned. Bans are being spoken, and alternatives are available: a cardboard “clamshell” for your takeout cheeseburger or “packing peanuts” made of popcorn instead of expanded polystyrene loose fill?


Beanbag Microplastic Nurdles Packing material Packing peanuts Polystyrene Styrofoam 


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    Tanaka K, Takada H et al (2013) Accumulation of plastic-derived chemicals in tissues of seabirds ingesting marine plastics. Mar Pollut Bull 69:219–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Lee J, Hong S et al (2015) Finding solutions for the styrofoam debris problem through participatory workshops. Mar Pollut Bull 51:182–189 Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Stachowitsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Limnology and Bio-OceanographyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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